Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good Morrow to All at Renaissance Faire 'Much Ado About Sebastopol'

Photo reportage by Emma & Yuri Krasov

Renaissance Faire in Sebastopol, California, took place on Saturday, September 13, and Sunday, September 14, 2014 at Ives Park, organized by Sebastopol Educational Foundation and Guild of St. George, Inc., Northern Chapter. Various period activities, performances, games, and arts and crafts, as well as food and drink and entertaining merchandize were presented at Fenford Lane, Pip ‘n Vine Tavern, Guinevere’s Garden, Sherwood Green, and theatre stages and promenades. Sonoma County businesses donated cash and products; hundreds of volunteers dressed in period costumes participated in the event, and all proceeds were used for funding Sebastopol public schools.   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Wente is Sharing the Vineyard Table with Two Prominent Chefs, Hundreds of Satisfied Guests

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

 
Wine and food, California’s foremost cultural markers, unite in the most harmonious way at Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley – the oldest in the nation continuously operated family-owned winery, which celebrates its 131st anniversary this year.
During September, officially designated as California Wine Month, all kinds of crops come to fruition, including vegetables and herbs at the Wente kitchen garden on the premises. The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards takes advantage of the bountiful California fall with “Sharing the Vineyard Table” dinner series.

Celebrating 28 years of culinary excellence, The Restaurant created a special one night four- course dinner menu featuring dishes prepared by its former Executive Chef, Kimball Jones, and current Executive Chef, Matt Greco, paired with wines from Groth Wines and Wente Vineyards.

Chef Jones, now the Culinary Director at Groth Vineyards and Winery in Oakville, was joined by his spouse, Suzanne – Owner and Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Groth.

Christine Wente, fifth-generation family winegrower and President of the Wente Foundation Board, joined Chef Greco in presenting the wines served with the food.

The two prominent chefs’ collaborative menu started with 2010 Wente Vineyards Arroyo Seco brut, and their combined amuse bouche – squash cornbread with fresh fig and butter sauce.  

The first course, prepared by Chef Jones, consisted of Jones Farm Fall Fruit Salad – fresee, endive, chicory, Mt. Tam cheese on toast, and walnut dressing. Bursting with freshness and flavor, the inventive salad was paired with 2013 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley – clean and crisp, with refreshing minerality.  

The second course, prepared by Chef Greco, was simply outstanding both in originality and in flavor combination, and was called Shrimp Scampi Ravioli. Strangely sounding, but extremely tasty, satisfying and delicate, it was made with saffron, garden tomato, garlic breadcrumbs, and parsley, and paired not with one, but with three exquisite whites – 2012 Wente Vineyards, Nth Degree Chardonnay, Livermore Valley; 2013 Wente Vineyards, Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, and 2013 Wente Vineyards, Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco.

The main course, another Chef Jones’s creation, was Grilled Porcini Crusted Steak, cooked medium-rare to chef’s specifications, and garnished with greens, parmesan, Tuscan white beans, and lemon. It was paired with excellent 2010 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Oakville.

Finally, Chef Greco’s dessert course – a nostalgic Grandma’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake – was made with late summer berries and macadamia nuts, and was decidedly decadent paired with 2010 Murrieta’s Well Touriga Port.

There is always something happening at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, located at 5050 Arroyo Road in Livermore, California. For more information about the upcoming events and to make reservations, call 925.456.2450, or visit www.wentevineyards.com.

Shakewell in Oakland: Not your Grandma’s Mediterranean Restaurant

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
 
 

When two Top Chefs combine their efforts to create something new it’s gotta be exciting. Chefs/Partners Jen Biesty and Tim Nugent recently relocated from San Francisco to Oakland to grace the “sunny side of the Bay” with their casual and stylish new restaurant Shakewell. It became immediately popular as a neighborhood hangout in the vicinity of the historic Grand Lake Theatre on Lakeshore Avenue. Hip, hot, and located in an intriguingly renovated space, Shakewell serves inventive contemporary cuisine in Spanish tapas style with other Mediterranean influences.

Chef Biesty, previously the Executive Chef of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco (Scala’s Bistro) in her new kitchen made an inspired switch to bold Spanish, Greek, Turkish, and North African flavors, complimented by fresh seasonal vegetables and inventive finishes.

Small bites menu includes several noticeable treats, like melon cubes wrapped in Serrano ham with basil, Luxardo, and smoked salt; classic bacalao croquetas; falafel with romesco sauce and chorizo garnished with sweet drop peppers, and the most flavorful pan con tomate.

The salads are fresh, bright, picturesque, and exquisitely tasty. Green beans and snow peas are dressed with red celery, scallions, garlic, orange zest and hazelnuts – a wonderful combination.

Roasted beets come with creamy burrata, crunchy toasted quinoa, hazelnuts (obviously Chef’s favorite – not that anyone’s complaining) fresh arugula, and mint. 

Bombas, or rice dishes – the Chef’s take on paellas – are baked in the wood burning oven and involve local seafood, like the popular Manila clams and chorizo with carrot jalepeño sofrito, saffron aioli, and oil cured olives.

Fish menu features pan seared white prawns, smothered with blistered Jimmy Ardello peppers, toasted garlic, tomato, fino sherry parsley and olive oil.

Among the meats, lamb kefta stands out, spiced up with harissa, and cooled down with yogurt cucumber sauce and mint.
General Manager Nugent, previously the Executive Pastry Chef at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, not only oversees the front of the house, but also creates a pastry program introducing his own enticing recipes.  

The airy churros with spiced bittersweet chocolate sauce reminded me of those I’ve enjoyed in a midnight street café in Barcelona, but oh, on a so much higher level!   

Flan Catalan – another dessert masterpiece – was embellished with dainty tastes of lemon and fennel pollen and served with a housemade shortbread cookie.

Shakewell’s bartender masterfully mixes classic (Blood and Sand) and original (The Smoking Gun) cocktails. The bar also boasts an extensive international wine list, artisanal beers, and non-alcoholic beverages, like agua fresca with fresh blackberry, grapefruit, and honey.

Shakewell accommodates approximately 70 guests, with 40 seated in the main dining room and 30 in the bar area. The renovation of the space was overseen by The Bon Vivants, a Bay Area restaurant and bar consulting firm that drew from Moorish, Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, and incorporated art commissioned from local artists in the restaurant design.

Shakewell is located at 3407 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, California. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Weekend brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed on Mondays. Call for reservations 510-251-0329 or visit www.shakewelloakland.com.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Last Chance to See Fiddler on the Roof at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma

 
Cinnabar Theater’s popular production of Fiddler on the Roof has garnered rave reviews, standing ovations, and sold-out houses. The theater has extended the show again – adding two more performances at 8 PM on September 25 and 2 PM on September 27 – but the show must close on September 28!
 
“We are thrilled that this show has been so well received, and delighted to begin our season on such a high note,” said Artistic Director Elly Lichenstein. “We’ve squeezed in even more performances due to popular demand, but we can’t add another, so get your tickets soon!”
 
Cinnabar kicks off its 42nd season by celebrating the 50th anniversary of Fiddler on the Roof. The original Broadway incarnation of this renowned musical racked up an astonishing 10 Tony Awards by introducing unforgettable songs like “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man.” It’s message of family, faith, and flexibility has never gone out of style. Experience the happiness and tears of Fiddler with 45 fantastic singers, dancers, and musicians in Cinnabar’s intimate theater.
 
Featuring stage direction by John Shillington and music direction by Mary Chun, Cinnabar’s ebullient production is generously underwritten by Clyde and Kim Schultz with Sandra O’Brien. Stephen Walsh of La Cage aux Folles plays Papa Tevye with Cinnabar’s own Elly Lichenstein as his wife. Talk about a match made in heaven! Don’t miss this joyful and beautiful show.
 
Fiddler on the Roof showcases Erin Ashe (Chava), Madeleine Ashe (Yente), Michael Desnoyers (Motel), Anthony Guzman (Perchik), Molly Mahoney (Hodel), Jennifer Mitchell (Tzeitel), and Sam Rabinowitz (Fyedka). The ensemble features Adrian Boyer (Avram the Bookseller), Frank Demma (Mendel), Joey Favalora (Mordcha), Megan Fleischmann (Sphrintze), Lucy London (Bielke), Clark Miller (Rabbi), Cheryl Moore (Fruma Sarah), James Pfeiffer (Constable), Dwayne Stincelli (Lazar Wolff), Craig Work (Nachum the Beggar), and Sue Zalkaske (Grandma Tzeitel).
 
The cast of this big production is completed by an 18-person chorus of kids and adults and accompanied by a six-piece orchestra – including Tyler Lewis as the fiddler. The designers are Joe Elwick (scenery), Julia Kwitchoff (costumes), Wayne Hovey (lights), and Joey Favalora (choreography).
 
Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for ages 21 and under. Tickets are $5 extra for the special Fiddler “birthday party” on September 21.Reserve seats online at any time by visiting cinnabartheater.org, or call the box office at 707-763-8920 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on weekdays.
 
Every year, Cinnabar Theater produces a thrilling mix of plays, musicals, operas, and concerts in a remarkable range of genres. Cinnabar’s Young Rep offers extensive activities for local youth, and the Cinnabar Singers welcome anyone who wants to be part of a chorus. All these events take place in the iconic red schoolhouse perched atop a grassy hill on the outskirts of Petaluma.
 
Audiences have flocked to performances in this intimate setting since 1972, when Marvin and Jan Klebe established an arts center for the community. Along with their sons, they transformed a charming 1908 schoolhouse into a jewel-box theater that has hosted successful shows for four decades. Now Cinnabar is presenting another year of lively performances for its loyal audience.
 
Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Boulevard North, just off Highway 101 and only minutes from historic downtown Petaluma. There’s ample parking up on the hill… and a friendly herd of goats grazing in the neighboring field. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 707-763-8920 or visit cinnabartheater.org. 
 
Image: courtesy of Cinnabar Theater. Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma captures the happiness and tears of Fiddler on the Roof with a beautiful production celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary. (Photo by Eric Chazankin).
  
Fiddler on the Roof
 
WHO:               Cinnabar Theater, the beloved professional theater in Sonoma County
 
WHAT:              Fiddler on the Roof
Cinnabar kicks off its new season by celebrating the 50th birthday of the marvelous family musical that earned 10 Tony Awards.
 
Music by Jerry Bock / Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick / Book by Joseph Stein
Music direction by Mary Chun / Stage direction by John Shillington
 
Featuring 45 fantastic singers, dancers, and musicians  
                       
WHERE:           Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma, CA 94952
 
WHEN:             EXTENDED THROUGH SEPTEMBER 28!
Friday, September 12 @ 8 PM – Sold out!
Saturday, September 13 @ 8 PM  – Sold out!
Sunday, September 14 @ 2 PM – Sold out!
Friday, September 19 @ 8 PM – Sold out!
Saturday, September 20 @ 2 PM
Saturday, September 20 @ 8 PM – Sold out!
Sunday, September 21 @ 2 PM – Sold out!
Thursday, September 25 @ 2 PM
Friday, September 26 @ 8 PM
Saturday, September 27 @ 2 PM
Saturday, September 27 @ 8 PM
Sunday, September 28 @ 2 PM

HOW MUCH:    $25 for ages 21 and under
$35 for adults
$5 extra for the Fiddler Birthday Party on September 21
 
TICKETS:         707-763-8920 or www.cinnabartheater.org
 
Buy online at anytime… or call between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on weekdays.

Mendocino: Same Time Next Year, and Many Years to Come

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
 
There are many exquisitely beautiful places in Northern California, but none is as famous as the Heritage House Resort in Little River, Mendocino – a set for the 1978 cult film “Same Time, Next Year” with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.

This high-voltage romantic movie, shown non-stop on every TV set in every room of the resort, had been shot here for a reason. In the unspoiled wilderness of the Pacific Coast no matter where you stand, sit, or walk around, the views of the raging ocean under the steep cliffs, covered with cypresses, eucalyptus, and blossoming succulents, are breathtaking from any angle.
Rocky outcroppings off the shore, covered with groves of sea palm and sprayed with sea foam, are teeming with silvery seals, white seagulls and black cormorants.  
A single white gazebo is perched on a cliff, and the entire resort ground is covered with flowering lavender, roses, and wild lilies. Squirrels, rabbits and deer can be spotted between the flower beds.
Two small “Meadow” cottages featured in the film hide behind old pines over a pebble beach, open to the endless sky, lit with enormously bright constellations and the Milky Way all through the night.

For many a contemporary viewer, “Same Time, Next Year” might look like a weird old tale of questionable moral value. The main characters are married to their respective spouses, and have their respective children, but nevertheless continue their illicit affair, however tender and poignant, by meeting at a remote inn every year for a few days of soulful reconnecting and avid lovemaking. The story shows the historical changes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s through the lens of the couple’s relationship and individual transformations. 
Ah, the 70s… Granted, with the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s the sex revolution succumbed to counterrevolution and filmmakers started busily creating stories about faithfulness and “telling the truth,” with all the cheaters routinely punished, and all the loyals handsomely rewarded by finding and keeping their true loves. But I digress.  

Opened in 1949, the 37-acre oceanside property started as a country inn with an 1877 New England-style farmhouse acquired by the Dennen family, originally from Maine. Lauren Nelson Dennen brought his wife, Hazel Ball, to Little River, where they and their family members continued to operate the resort through the end of the 1990s.

During the original owners’ tenure, the place quickly became one of the area's foremost destinations with a reputation for the stunning natural setting and warm hospitality. To make sure his guests had hot fresh toasts for breakfast, Mr. Dennen installed electric outlets by every table in a dining room, and an individual toaster on every tabletop.

The Heritage House was a place to be, and it was the place where people vacationed every year. Five decades of legendary service and success came to an end in 2008 when economic turbulence closed the doors of this gorgeous property for several years. It took a few changes of ownership to address a variety of financial issues and a multi-million dollar renovation and upgrade, which by now has been mostly completed.  

The result is a classic California hideaway offering 70 guest rooms with contemporary styling and four-diamond features including a premier restaurant, concierge service, private function capabilities, beach access, wooded trails, and striking gardens. Weddings and corporate retreats are a specialty of the house, and pets are welcome.
Among the in-room amenities are large private decks, fireplaces, rainfall showers, soaking tubs, handcrafted Duxiana beds with European linens, complimentary Wi-Fi, 42″ flat-screen televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, dedicated phone lines, and L’Occitane bathroom amenities.

Since Mr. Dennen used to collect antiques and decorate each guest room with his collectibles in a different style, the names like Opera House, Firehouse, Schoolhouse, Chart Room or Pilot House still exist today. During our stay, my husband and I occupied Carousel House, with an original wooden horse from the Pier 39 carousel in San Francisco – a part of the antique collection – now encased in a glass vitrine on a hill above the cottage.    

The property restaurant, 5200 Bistro and Lounge, is known for its farm-to-fork cuisine prepared by Chef Fabrice Dubuc.
On the night we dined, I was equally impressed with local wild mushrooms served on a toast, with fresh burrata complimented by local beets, tomatoes, and watermelon radishes, and with duck breast l’Orange garnished with seasonal vegetables.

The restaurant also serves full breakfast that includes Heritage House Omelet made with goat cheese, mushrooms, spinach, onions, and balsamic reduction. 

There are several remarkable restaurants on the beautiful Mendocino Coast, and Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg is sure to please with its seasonal menu that always includes the finest local seafood, produce, and house made bread and pasta. Very attractively priced – not only for the visitors to the area, but mostly for the local regulars – it has something for everyone. There are some market-driven daily specials, and there are old favorites and constant crowd pleasers, among them “Choice Menu” from which one can pick a free-range chicken, a fish of the evening, a steak, or even a Portobello mushroom or tofu, and have it sautéed, roasted, grilled, batter fried, or braised, and then served with a choice of sauce.  
Chef/Owner Nicholas Petti and his wife Jaimi Parsons, who manages the front of the house, work hard to make Mendo Bistro on the second floor of the renovated Company Store on Main Street in the 90-year-old historical building a “great and affordable restaurant,” unique to the area.  

Opened in 1999, the restaurant has built a loyal clientele and achieved significant critical acclaim due to its philosophy of serving food that’s “fun, but also safe and familiar,” so diners with different tastes can order from different  parts of the menu and be equally satisfied.

Our dinner at Mendo Bistro included special salmon tartar, wild-caught sturgeon from the Sacramento River with black rice and miso butter, and Sonora quail in blackberry-sage sauce over popcorn puree.

For dessert, also made in-house by Chef Petti, I picked Peach Dacquiose – layered and frozen almond meringue and peach mousse, garnished with roasted peaches. 

Another great restaurant that should never be missed is The Ravens in the town of Mendocino. It is located inside the Stanford Inn by the Sea, and is a part of this “Historic Farm and Eco-Resort” – the only vegan resort in the country.

The owners, Joan и Jeff Stanford, are avid promoters of healthy living, sustainable agriculture, and veganism. The restaurant, paneled in pine and redwood and offering wonderful views from its uphill location, serves upscale organic vegan cuisine, chef-prepared with 100% plant-based ingredients, many of which come from the Stanford Inn’s own gardens.

Our dinner at the Ravens was preceded by a tour of its Big River Nurseries, provided by Chef Instructor Sadhana Berkow who showed us rows upon rows of lettuces, cabbages, spinach, radishes, and gourmet radicchio, mizuna, arugula, and edible flowers, all grown using biointensive and organic methods.

At dinner, we were joined by Sid Garza-Hillman – a certified nutritionist and a book author of “Approaching the Natural: A Health Manifesto.”
“90% of people who come to the Ravens aren’t vegan or vegetarian,” said Garza-Hillman. “They sometimes worry that they won’t have enough to eat, so we have big portions. But the artistry of our food usually wins them over.”

We were won over at hello. Our amuse bouche of the most unusual canapé presented a halved fresh fig topped with cashew pesto, basil leaf, and pecan.

Small plates of tamari-maple glazed tofu and sushi roll made with Ravens signature sauce and mirin cucumber salad were as beautiful as they were flavorful.

Out of the Large Plates menu we’ve tried Napoleon – layered grilled cauliflower, tomato, zucchini, eggplant, hemp seed “cheese,” and balsamic reduction with basil-spinach infusion drizzle.

Another curious main course was Sea Palm and Root Vegetable Strudel made with local seaweed that grows on the rocks along the coast.  
Mini Chocolate Ganache Tart, made with almond and hazelnut crust, and without any animal products, like the usual in baking cream and butter, was out-of-this-world creamy and dreamy.
Before leaving Mendocino, we had to make a trip to our favorite place on this rugged coast – Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg.

Stretched on 47 blossoming acres from the scenic California Highway One to the ocean, the Gardens include several thematic enclosures, filled with plants, sculptures, and live-in hummingbirds, blue jays, and song sparrows.  Entry Garden leads into Perennial, then Heritage Rose Garden, Heaths and Heather, Camellias, Succulents, Mediterranean, Rhododendrons, Woodland, Native Plants, and Dahlia, which is currently in full bloom.

White, pink, orange, yellow, crimson-red, burgundy-red, and even two-toned with sharp yet rounded petals, as if painted by an artist, these large stellar flowers on stiff stems densely cover the entire area of the garden.

Behind it, the main trails collide, leading to a narrow path guarded by a deer fence gate, and then out into the open, along the Shore Pine Trail and Coastal Bluff Trail to the roaring Pacific Ocean studded with black rocks, as perfectly picturesque as every hour of every year in Mendocino.